Jasmine in Viewpoint

Too much news. After the excitement of the unexpected election result the last three days have been filled with the horror of Grenfell Tower. After all the posturing about security and fighting terror, one inexcusable fire has killed more people than have died in all the terrorist attacks in the UK since 7/7 in 2005 and probably scared people living in similar tower blocks far more. Will the government be as keen  to name those responsible for this un-natural disaster as they are the terrorists? Was it austerity or simply a lack of concern that saw so many immigrants housed in what was so obviously a fire-trap.

Perhaps, after a calamity of this nature, brought on ourselves, it is even harder to say that life must go on than after a mindless act of terror but we must. We need real leadership, not empty words, to hack through the lies and obfuscation to sort out the real priorities for this country – not meaningless demands for sovereignty and taking back control that has long since been handed to overseas and multinational corporations, not putting more money in the pockets of the rich or into pointless vanity projects like Trident, but using the remaining  resources of the country to help all its inhabitants.

That’s enough politicking. Last week saw the end of the Leominster Festival following the Bookfair on the Grange. It wasn’t the big sales drive that I hoped for (but didn’t expect) so now I am on the look out for marketing opportunities for my work – both the Jasmine Frame transgender/crime stories and the September Weekes fantasy novels. I have to get busy.

WP_20170616_16_16_42_ProAs promised last week, I have started the next Jasmine Frame prequel. Started being the operative word as a bit of research and planning was necessary before I could get writing. A short first episode follows of Viewpoint. It is set just a week or two after the end of Perspective, which took place towards the end of 2011. This I think will be the last prequel to fit in the time-gap before the events of the first novel Painted Ladies so I’ve got to be careful that it all matches up. Anyway, here it is.

 

 

 

 

 

Viewpoint: part 1

Rain water mixed with sweat dripped from Jasmine’s nose. She looked down at her running shoes, muddy from splashing through puddles on the towpath and was grateful that she had chosen to wear her older pair this morning. The dark oak gates of Renham lock loomed through the December morning drizzle. She glanced at her watch pleased with her time for completing the two-mile run out from her flat in Kintbidge. Her heart was beating a little faster but she felt strong today, for a change, and eager for the return.
She turned and glanced out across the rain spattered water of the canal. Something bobbing in the water caught her eye, something white, smooth and round. An inflated plastic bag perhaps? No, it was bigger than that. She peered through the veil of drizzle. A dead sheep? You didn’t get those very often on this stretch of water. She rubbed away the water dripping from her forehead and stepped to the edge of the bank to look more closely. There were limbs attached to the main body of the object but they didn’t seem like the legs of an animal. Her heart thumped. A body.
Jasmine paused only to undo her bumbag and drop it on the grass beside the towpath. She stepped off the bank. Her feet sank into the ooze but only up to her calves. The water was cold, icy even. She waded out. The canal got deeper with each step. She knew it was V-shaped in profile but the water only came up to her waist when she reached the body. She could see now it was a person not an unfortunate farm animal. She took hold of an arm. It was as cold as the water. She towed it with her as she struggled back through the water and mud to the side of the canal. Her legs were feeling heavy and numb; the cold penetrating to her bones. She let go of the body and placed both hands on the bank. It took all her strength to haul herself out of the water.
She crouched on the waterside, breathing deeply, shivering, and reached down to grab the arm of the body. Thoughts from her police training passed through her head. Evidence. Make sure that no evidence is destroyed. Don’t contaminate what could be a crime scene. But she had to get the body, the person, out of the water. She hauled on the arm; pushed herself upright; staggered back. The body rose from the water, a dead weight.
Jasmine fell backwards, sprawled across the wet grass. She released her grip. The body fell into the mud on the bank, its feet still dangling in the water. She panted, exhausted by the effort, shaking all over now as the wet and the cold penetrated to her core. Jasmine crawled to the edge reached out across the surface of the water and grabbed the leg of the body. She tugged it to land, the body twisting to lie parallel to the canalside.
She scrambled away from the cadaver to where her bumbag had dropped. Her frozen fingers fumbled with the zip but at last she took out her phone. She stabbed the 9 button three times.
‘Hello? Police please. Renham lock. Sorry, there’s not much signal here. On the canal, west of Kintbridge. No, I don’t think an ambulance will be needed, just a pathologist.’

………………to be continued.

Jasmine is considering

After a couple of weeks of idyllic holiday it is difficult to get back into routine, especially when there is so much to make one want to just curl up again – I won’t say what.  One thing did concern me. It was a report in the news over a week ago about the transwoman who committed suicide while in a male prison. I was concerned to read that she was only 19 and had been living as female since the age of 10.  But, and this is what got to me, she had little idea of what being transsexual means and had had no advice, medical or otherwise to help her transition. Despite all the publicity in recent years about various trans people, she still felt isolated and did not know where to go for help. She had not even begun to apply for a Gender Recognition Certificate, probably because she had not started any authorised medical treatment.

My understanding is that you do not need to go through surgery or even drug treatment to get a GRC but you do have to have a medical opinion that you are gender dysphoric. I have also heard that your mental state is taken into consideration. You can get to a sort of Catch 22 situation where if you are mad i.e. have mental health issues, you can’t get a GRC while a lot of people consider wanting to change gender a sign of madness.

This woman obviously had issues as she was convicted of crimes and sent to prison. What is appalling is that she received no care from the authorities that were responsible for her welfare while in custody. It also shows that there is still a lack of information about being trans available to the general public, despite the heap of material on the internet. We may be just 1% of the population but that just makes it that much more difficult for people who need help to make contact with those that can provide it. It also shows that the majority of people have a poor grasp of gender issues and do not understand how to help someone who is struggling to come to terms with their gender identity.

………………

IMGP5962I have a busy two or three weeks coming up so a new Jasmine novella will be on hold for a bit longer. In the meantime I’ll continue with other short stories I have stored away (there are lots).  This week I have a recent SF story I wrote (somewhat hurriedly) for a competition.  It didn’t get anywhere which I’m not surprised about.  I think it reads more like a synopsis than a short story.  It is also a familiar theme – colonisation of the Moon – but I hoped I had an original slant. Anyway, here it is.

Life on the Moon

The dark sky. That’s what surprised me most when I got here. I spent lots of time staring at the sky back home. There wasn’t much else to do lying in a cot. I watched the clouds move, that’s all. Then they gave me the neuro-interface. Here, on the Moon’s surface with my suit working at one hundred percent to keep me cool and my visor filter at maximum, the sun’s still too bright to look at directly and yet the sky is black. Yeah, that’s what tells me I’m on the Moon. It’s not the lower gravity, that’s just a pleasure. The weight on my chest is less and my useless muscles don’t have to work so hard.
The thing is they didn’t mention it during training. I suppose those career guys who’d been up to orbit lots of times didn’t think of it. Perhaps they weren’t allowed the time to just stare out of the windows of the space station. Me, well, when I’m turned away from the Sun and see all the stars on that black background it still takes my breath away. That’s probably not a good way of putting it. A break in my breathing would set off all sorts of warning alarms and have the monitor reprimand me for wasting time – time we haven’t got.
I’m outside for almost all my ten-hour shift, keeping an eye or more accurately a few brain cells, on the drills and the rock shifting kit, making small adjustments here and there, occasionally taking control of the waldos and really moving stuff. I love it. I feel useful for the first time in my life. Useful and important.  When I hand over to one of the others I feel as if I’m giving up a part of my body. In some ways, I am.
Yesterday, when I got back from my shift there was a celebration going on. Li told me all about it. We’re friends. She’s so like me; in abilities if not looks or personality. The fuss was over the completion of Cavern 1. Now they can start filling it with all the kit they’ve been hauling up from Earth. That gear will make this place self-sufficient in water, oxygen, metals, and lots of other stuff. The bosses were pleased because the hole was dug ahead of schedule and that was all down to our team.
Soon we’ll finish Cavern 2. It’ll be great to start filling it with the permanent living quarters. The temporary surface pods are cramped and there’s always the chance of a meteor puncturing the skin. The next bunch to come up from Earth will find their cosy apartments all ready for them.  By then the bio domes should be producing real food. I’m looking forward to having something to chew on instead of the concentrated, dried, pre-cooked mush we get from Earth. Once we’ve got our own food supply we can really start calling ourselves colonists.
Some of the guys talk about going home when we’ve finished the heavy work. Not me. Why should I go back to that gravity-well where I can’t move a muscle and I’m treated like a dependent waste of space? Here I’m free and a respected member of the gang. I’d happily see out my life working as a farmer or extending the caverns. Li feels the same. We may pair up and take a shared apartment in Cavern 2; maybe even have kids. I wonder if they would be like us?
Anyway, who really wants to go back to Earth now? It’s not exactly a pleasant place to be these days. The guys who want to go back have family down there so perhaps that gives them a reason. There’s no one down there who wants me back, not when getting food and staying alive is such a struggle, even for people who have the use of their own limbs.
I saw a meteor today. You don’t see them very often because there’s no atmosphere for them to streak through. It caught my eye, well, my camera lens, when it reflected the sunlight. A brief flicker, then it was gone. Thinking about it, perhaps it wasn’t a meteor after all. It wasn’t moving fast enough. Some of the states on Earth don’t like what we’re doing and have threatened to lob a bomb at us. One or two of them still have the capability. That’s why we’re on the “other side” facing away from Earth. Some of the guys are upset that we don’t have a view of Earth but I don’t care. I don’t want to see what we’ve done to that place, or let the bad guys down there have a good view of what we’re doing.
………………..
It was a missile. Li told me that someone she knows in admin said that our defences took it out before it got anywhere near. They’re not expecting many more as they’ve started lobbing nukes at each other down there. That should take their minds off us. Mind you the chances of us getting more supplies look pretty slim. Just like the chances of some of the guys going home.  I’ll just get on with my job managing the machines fitting out Cavern 2. I’m a builder now not a digger.
…………………
That’s it. We’re on our own. The multi-nationals who were behind us don’t exist anymore, like their customers, or most of them anyway. Admin have cut our rations to tide us over until the first crops are ready in a few weeks. It’ll be tough but I don’t need much to eat.
Chatting to Li, she thinks that the company bosses knew this was going to happen. That was why there was such a rush to get the colony set up. She says they used up all their capital to move as much stuff up here as possible in the time that was left. They had to do it without the governments noticing as otherwise their resources would have been commandeered for the patriotic wars.
……………………..
Li and I moved into our new home today. It’s on floor 6, two hundred meters below the surface but handy for the elevators. We’ve got more room than we expected because there’s no more people coming up from down below.  We celebrated with a special dinner – a tube of protein paste saved from yesterday’s ration, re-hydrated rice and a fresh lettuce from our first crop.  Food may be short still, but we’re nice and cosy down here and the solar energy collectors on the surface are 100% as it’s mid-moon day. We selected a view of the surface for our video-screen. Some of the others have selected scenes of Earth relayed by the satellite. I don’t know how they can look at that spoiled place now. It’s not the blue, white and green globe it used to be but a dirty brown ball.
………………….
We had boiled egg today. Okay, Li and I had to share it, but it was a real egg; shell and everything. We spent as much time looking at it as eating it. I had no idea that we’d brought chicken embryos up with us. Once we got the bio pods up the chicks were incubated. Now they’re hens and laying.  We had bread with the egg; real bread made from grain grown in the bio pods. Food is still rationed, probably always will be, but we’re self-sufficient.  Li and I talked about raising a kid. Of course, we can’t actually make a baby by ourselves, not us two, but we’re going to have a chat with the meds.
……………………
We’re going to be a mum and dad!  I supplied the sperm and Li the egg and the cybermeds did the rest. Nine months’ time we’ll have a daughter called Selene. We decided against gen-eng so she’ll be like Li and me. Admin agreed to it. In fact, they suggested it. They need our brains but being immobile we don’t need as much food as the ables. Selene won’t be the first child. Dmitri and Makena are having theirs the traditional way, a few weeks sooner. Admin were delighted. Without the extra people that were expected from Earth we’re a small number. Now that the food situation is easing, they want more mouths to feed, and hands and brains to do the work.
……………………..
I’ve got a new job.  Admin have patched me into the colony’s mainframe. I’m making sure that all the systems are running to plan. I look after the farmbots in the bio pods, energy generation, the foundries extracting metals and making plastics, the water and oxygen extractors, life support, everything really. It’s not just me of course. Li does a shift and there are others like us.  I wonder if the guys who designed the neuro-interface that give us a life, guessed that one day we’d be running the first colony on the Moon. Okay, it’s probably the last as well, but we have a future, which is more than those poor folks on Earth have got.
………………………..
It’s a good job that we can override the default settings. A few of the guys who couldn’t go home to Earth got a bit upset. I had to cut their oxygen. They won’t cause any more problems.
I love this job. It means that I’m on the surface any time I like, looking out through the cameras on the bio pods, the solar collectors and the communications towers. I can see the ragged ridge that surrounds our crater, the grey dust that’s now criss-crossed with the tracks of our machines and I can look up and see the stars in that black sky.
………………………………

Jasmine takes a break

It’s Easter – time for the first big rush of the year to the holiday resorts.  Last week there was a storm in a chocolate teacup about the use of the term “Easter” followed by the words bunny, egg, treasure hunt etc. Apparently leaving out the “Easter” was a denial of our Christian heritage and of being a sop to people of other religions. I didn’t follow the convoluted arguments closely but I did not notice any reference to what Christians actually celebrate at Easter. Not that there many that do.  The cars clogging the roads are filled with people just looking forward to a good time over the extended weekend; the religious significance means little.  Similarly I find little religious significance in the Easter bunny or chocolate eggs although of course any priest worth his/her cassock can find significance in anything. Rabbits and eggs recall the spring fertility festivals that predate the Christian era. Early Christians struggled to replace these joyous occasions with the sacred Easter celebrations but ended up adopting many of their symbols and traditions. Now it is largely just an early spring break.

Does it matter to our national identity what we call this weekend? I don’t think it so.  It is some years since the late spring bank holiday replaced Whitsun/Pentecost in the national consciousness and that doesn’t seem to have caused the world to end.  Let those who want to mark the religious occasion do so, and let the rest enjoy a few days of holiday, but don’t persist in attaching religiously charged words like Easter to secular money-spinning products and activities.

…………………………

IMGP5761Talking of breaks. Jasmine is still having one while I get on with Molly’s Boudoir but don’t forget that all three Jasmine Frame novels are available in paperback and e-book.

Instead of a Jasmine episode here is something else “what I wrote”.  This short piece was knocked off for a writing group meeting.  Although it was apparently not that long ago I cannot remember the task we set ourselves. It could have just been the start, “There was a boat. . .”. I am sure you will recognise the setting and the theme as incorporating both environmental and political issues. I hope you like it.

 

There was a boat . . .

There was a boat that rested, listing, on a shore that had not experienced the kiss of waves for a generation. Yuri entered through the jagged hole made to remove the diesel engine and all the metal fittings. He stretched his young legs to clamber up the lopsided wooden ladder. Sunlight made jagged stripes on his face and body as it streamed through the gaps in the wind-shrunken timbers. The boat would no longer float if the sea returned, not that that was likely to occur. Yuri reached the narrow bridge, held himself upright by hanging on to the wheel and looked out of the dirt-covered, cracked window. The barren sea-bed stretched to meet the brown sky at the distant horizon. Yuri was alone with his boat.  Alone with his thoughts and memories.
Yuri’s father had seen the approaching vehicles shrouded in their clouds of dust and exhaust fumes. He had sent Yuri to his hiding place above the ceiling of their shack. There Yuri peered through the gaps in the boards. He saw the battered four-by-four pickups draw up around their little house and the bearded men with the guns and blades get out. They crowded into the one room and demanded things of his father. Things he did not have. Yuri didn’t recognise the men but they had been before. Last time they had taken his mother in exchange for his father’s life, taken her Yuri did not know where. Now he lay on the boards listening to his father argue and plead. The men shouted and then his father had made one last sound; a brief shriek that cut off abruptly.
There was more noise as the men smashed up the hut with the butts of their guns, then they left, laughing and hailing a god Yuri did not know. Their vehicle engines spluttered into life and they were gone.  Yuri waited just in case the men returned but after many minutes of silence except for the whispering wind, he crept from his hiding place.
Yuri’s father was sprawled on the floor, the blood from his almost severed neck soaking into the earth. His guts spread across floor, stinking, already attracting buzzing flies. Yuri took a single glance and left the home he had shared with his father, mother, baby sister and grandfather. They were all gone now. He was alone. He went to the only other place he knew – the boat.
The sun turned red and bloated and sank below the featureless horizon. Yuri remained standing watching. The sky darkened and the stars came out, so many stars that Yuri couldn’t comprehend their number. Though the long-dried out, wind-scoured bed of the former sea was as dark as dark could be, the sky was bright with the stars.
Yuri gripped the wheel and turned it to port and starboard. He was sailing, not the fish-filled waters that the boat had navigated with his grandfather at the wheel, but the heavens, like the cosmonaut who he was named for who had died decades before he was born. In his boat of dreams Yuri soared among the stars and planets, visiting places where there were foods and drinks he had heard about but never tasted, seeing animals and plants that he was told existed away from the poisoned shores of the dried-up sea, and meeting his father and mother and sister and relatives and friends that once had inhabited the shore which was home. Upon the starry main, he found peace and happiness.
The boat remained at its mooring. Its keel broken as it slumped into the dust. Its timbers crumbled and the atoms of the wood and of Yuri mingled and were sucked into the air. At last, Yuri sailed away on the wind that blew across the waterless sea.

Jasmine -new novel

People are arriving at the Ashmore Lodge Hotel for a weekend of transgender fun. A body is discovered. Jasmine Frame is asked to join the gathering, incognito, to seek out the killer. Time is short and she finds she has to face her own gender prejudices as well as a host of motives for murder.

Layout 1The 3rd Jasmine Frame novel, The Brides’ Club Murder is now available on Amazon Kindle (if you’re in the UK go here). It’s a classic murder mystery with a transgender slant.

The paperback version will be available very soon (in the UK) at £9.99 (inc. p&p).  Send your order  to paintedladiesnovel@btinternet.com . Details of payment methods will be made by reply (cheque, Paypal or bank transfer).

Special offers

For 48 hours from 8 a.m. Sat. 4th March, the 2nd Jasmine Frame novel, Bodies By Design isLayout 1 for sale at under half price in the UK and US. (here  for UK buyers)

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Purchasers of the paperback version of The Brides’ Club Murder will receive a free copy of Painted Ladies, the 1st in the series. (or have £1 off if you say you do not need another copy).

Painted Ladies front cover jpeg

Don’t forget that there are also two novellas available as e-books – Discovering Jasmine and Murder In Doubt.

discovering jasmine final coverMurder in doubt cover

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And so on with the current Jasmine Frame story, Darkroom. We’ve reached episode 6. Warning – this passage contains violent scenes.

Darkroom: Part 6

Jasmine squinted and held her hand up to shield her eyes. She couldn’t see the speaker. The powerful light dazzled her and she felt unsteady. Her heart rate increased, readying her for flight but she wasn’t prepared for the fist that slammed into the side of her head. She staggered, felt the low arm of a sofa against her knee and fell full length on to the soft vinyl-covered cushions. Before she could use her hands to push herself up, a knee thrust into the small of her back. She twisted her head, gasping for breath. Her right cheek bone throbbed. The light was somewhere behind her but she still couldn’t see her attacker. Her wrists were grabbed and dragged behind her back. She felt a cord being tied around them, pulled tight. She cried with pain.
‘Cry all you like,’ the voice said from behind her head. ‘You can’t be heard with all that row outside.’ With an extra shove into the sofa she was released from the weight. She shuffled her legs around until she could sit up with her arms bound behind her. The figure in the shadows holding the torch was returning from the door to the room. Jasmine guessed that she was now locked in with him.  She trembled but made herself breathe slowly and deeply to calm her fear. The light approached again, the bearer lost in the darkness. The focus of the torch moved away from her eyes, travelling down her body. It passed up and down as if scanning her as his eyes no doubt were.
‘A pretty thing, aren’t you,’ he said in that same soft, confident voice. ‘Quite the fashion kitten too with that dress. But I bet underneath it all there’s a cock. After all, why else would you be here.’
The light came closer, dazzling her eyes again. A hand gleamed pinkly as it reached out towards her legs. He was wearing latex gloves. Jasmine tried to wriggle herself further back onto the sofa, squeezing her knees together. The hand landed on her right knee, gripping it, then pushing between her thighs. She resisted, clamping her muscles against the questing fingers.
‘Now darling, there’s no point resisting,’ he said. ‘You can make this easy for yourself or you can get hurt.’
She half relaxed, as if accepting his reasoning. She was thinking hard but unsure what to do. She wasn’t going to let him do to her what he did to Diana. The hand moved higher up her thigh. The torch was lowered to the floor and the right hand joined the left between her legs. Jasmine allowed herself a smile. Through the red spots in front of her eyes, she now could see the silhouette of the man bending over her, inching closer as his hands continued their exploration of her smooth thighs.
‘Oh, that’s a pity,’ he said in a voice that oozed disappointment. ‘Why aren’t you wearing stockings? Don’t all you trannies like sexy undies?’
Both hands progressed up the legs of her tights. Now he was astride her, leaning over her. She could feel his breath on her face and a smell of mint. The hands reached her groin.
‘All tucked away are we? You’re making life difficult. Oh well, if needs must.’
The hands withdrew from her private place and parted, moving over the top of her thighs. They slid around her hips reaching up for the waistband of her tights. Jasmine waited, holding her breath. His fingers slipped inside the stretched elastic. For a moment he was trapped. This was her moment.
She raised her left knee, fast. It made contact between his legs, encountering something soft. He let out a gasp and his head lowered. Pushing against her bound arms with all the force she could summon, Jasmine swung her head forward. Her forehead contacted his nose. She heard it crack, as he let out a cry and fell forward. She twisted to the side and they rolled together along the sofa, his hands still locked in her knickers; but she was on top now. In the dim light cast from the torch that lay on the floor, she saw his head below her. She arched her back and brought her forehead down on his nose again. This time there was a satisfying squishy noise of bone and tissue being mashed together.  He grunted.
Jasmine brought her right knee up between them and forced herself away from him. His hands were dragged from her hips. She slipped onto the floor, rolled away and rose to her feet. She was panting and her forehead felt sore. He was struggling up from the sofa, one hand protecting his battered face, the other reaching out for her.
‘You’ve had it now.’ His voice was different now. Speaking nasally through the pain of his ruined nose, he was angry. He lurched to his feet.
Jasmine kicked the torch away. It spun around illuminating the floor and bottoms of the furniture. It was light enough to see her attacker staggering, zombie-like towards her.  She took a step back out of his reach and launched a kick.  The pointed toe of her shoe stabbed into his groin. As her foot withdrew, he groaned again and fell forward. She helped him down with a stamp to his back with her narrow heel. He hit the hard, rubber floor with his ruined face. Jasmine swung and launched a final kick at his head. There was a final groan and he lay still.
Jasmine stood still breathing heavily, looking down at him.
‘That’s for what you did to Diana,’ she muttered. She turned and walked towards the door. Turning her back she felt for the door handle with her tied-together hands. Below the knob was the key which he had not had the foresight to remove. She had to twist her body until she could get the leverage to unlock the door and then turn the handle. She pulled the door open and ran into the next room.
‘Help me,’ she cried, ‘I’ve been attacked.’
Several bodies stirred in the shadows. Movement revealed naked limbs, buttocks, faces and other parts of bodies. Eyes widened as their owners observed her.
‘What’s that, love?’ a deep voice said. It was owned by a tall, slim figure in a sparkling silver dress that just about covered her genitalia.
‘Help me, please,’ Jasmine repeated. ‘My hands are tied.’ She turned to reveal her bound wrists.
‘What the fuck?’ the TV said approaching her. She bent down and fiddled ineffectually with the knots. Others joined her, leaning in to examine her.  A few knives of various types and sizes appeared from handbags. One was used to start sawing at her bonds.
‘What happened, darling?’
‘Is that your blood on your face?’
‘Where is he?’
‘Is there BDSM in that room?’
The voices were all round her. She strained against the bindings.
‘Quickly please. He’s in there.’
Her hands came free. She felt her shoulders relax as she brought her hands to her front and she rubbed the wrists. She pushed herself through the crowd around her and ran back to the door to the room where she had been attacked. Taking the key from the lock, she closed the door and turned the key on the other side, locking the room with him still in it.
Jasmine held the key between her fingers thinking she would drop it into her bag, then realised that she didn’t have it, or her phone. It must be somewhere inside the room with the sex maniac.
She turned and ran across the room. The occupants stood and stared.
‘I’ve got to find Angela and Debs,’ she said to no-one in particular.  She found a door that opened onto the dance hall. The noise of the music knocked her back but she saw a figure in a long gown and towering wig standing on the stage roaring into a microphone – the live entertainment. The floor around the stage was packed. Jasmine forced her way between the hot, sweaty bodies of the clubbers dancing and swaying to the singing and hollering their appreciation of the drag artiste.
She reached the stage and saw the golden silhouette of Debs standing beside a tower of loudspeakers.  She pushed through the crowd until she was at Debs’ side. The compere stared at her.
‘I’ve got him,’ Jasmine bellowed at her.
‘What?’ Debs roared back.
‘Diana’s attacker. He attacked me. I’ve locked him in one of the rooms.’
‘You’ve what?’
Jasmine leaned towards Debs and shouted directly into her ear.
‘The guy who attacked Diana is locked in a room.’
Debs mouth opened, stayed open for seconds then closed. She turned so her lips were against Jasmine’s ear.
‘Let’s deal with him.’  She grabbed Jasmine’s hand and dragged her off through the dancers. The crowd parted to let them through but they were heading towards the entrance and away from the quiet rooms.
‘Where are we going?’ Jasmine cried out.
‘To collect my security guys.’
…………………… to be continued.

Jasmine feels her guilt

Well, we’re a week into the new year and the sky hasn’t fallen yet. However, Brexit hasn’t even begun yet and Trump isn’t President for a week or two, so it’s a bit soon to feel confident. Anyway, let’s ignore the world situation and concentrate on my plans.

First of all, you will find below, the final episode of Falloff. This has been the latest of eleven novella-length (some longer than others) prequel to Painted Ladies. As prequels, these stories are all set in the time before or during James Frame’s career as a police officer and his relationship with Angela. During this period he moves from being uncertain about his/her gender to starting his transition  to the woman Jasmine has become to believe herself to be. Falloff, incidentally is the first Jasmine Frame story I have written that takes place outside the UK.

Two of the novellas have been published (after considerable editing) as Discovering Jasmine and Murder In Doubt. I would love to publish the other nine, perhaps as separate e-books or packaged as an omnibus, but that will have to wait for the funds to appear.

There will soon be a third novel to purchase though. The Brides’ Club Murder is now in production  and will be out shortly. There’ll be more news very soon.

I have outline plots for two more Jasmine novels that will see her through the final (and most difficult) stages of her transition, but it will be a few years before I complete those. I will be writing more prequels as there are still time slots in James/Jasmine’s life to fit in a few more stories. However there may be a gap of a few weeks while I get on  with some other pressing work.

wp_20161228_15_25_50_proI have lived with Jasmine in my head for over fifteen years now and I have stated before that she is not me nor are her experiences mine. I think, that as a transgendered or gender-fluid person I have some idea of what a transsexual, such as Jasmine, feels while not necessarily sharing them. What I have learned over the last couple of decades is that the gender map is much more varied and complex than I or most people believe. Legal protection for all genders is a necessity.

Getting back to writing, I have another fantasy novel close to completion but whether it will be published is another unknown. I have various other small projects on the go and a desire to get down to an SF novel. Of course I will also be putting my thoughts on various matters that interest me, if no-one else, here That all means that 2017 is going to be a fascinating year – let’s hope we survive it.

 

Falloff: Part 10

She ran from the bedroom, heart pounding. She bounded down the stairs to the foyer and out onto the lawn beside the swimming pool. There, again, there was the body.  Gemma was lying face down, her legs twisted and her arms bent under her. Jasmine knelt by her side, leaned down and listened for breath. There was none. She felt for a pulse. There was none.
‘Ah, Seňor/Seňora Frame. Again, I find you beside the body of a young woman.’
Jasmine turned her head and saw the familiar pale beige trouser legs. She looked up to see Inspector Alvarez looking down at her. She opened her mouth to speak but nothing would come out.
‘I think we spoke earlier about a murderer returning to the site of his crime. I had not expected my words to prove to be so exact as this.’
Jasmine struggled to her feet and faced the policeman. ‘But I didn’t do this. I’m not the killer. She was.’ She pointed at the dead girl.
Alvarez nodded slowly. ‘Exactly. It was not you I was accusing, but maybe you can explain why you are once again the first on the scene.’ He examined her face, frowning, ‘and also, how you got that bruise on your face in the short time since we last spoke outside your room.’
Other people were arriving now, Angela and Carrie among them. A circle of onlookers formed around the body but no one approached closer than a couple of metres. It was obvious that nothing could be done for the girl.
Jasmine touched her tender cheek. ‘It was her, Gemma. She hit me before she jumped.’
Alvarez looked up. ‘She jumped from the balcony of the bedroom she shared with Seňorita Carrie?’
Jasmine nodded.
‘I presumed they were in their room,’ Alvarez said, ‘though they refused to answer my knock. I was about to return with a master key obtained from the manager. Did they open their door to you?’
‘No, I climbed over the balcony from our room,’ Jasmine said. Alvarez’s eyebrows rose, but he did not express any surprise.
‘Why did you do that?’
‘I could hear them having an argument or something.’
‘So you decided to intervene.’
‘Yes, I thought one of them was going to hurt the other.’
Alvarez frowned. ‘Just because they were arguing? Why did you leap to such a conclusion?’
‘Because I thought Carrie had killed Raquel.’
The inspector appeared confused. He looked down at the body, ‘But this is not Seňorita Carrie.’
‘No. I got it wrong.’
‘Hmm. Why did you suspect the other young woman?’
Jasmine sighed. She was at last going to have to reveal the piece of information she had withheld. She knew Alvarez was not going to be happy.
‘When I got to Raquel last night she wasn’t quite dead,’ she began, ‘She let out a breath which sounded a bit like she was trying to say a name.’
‘You didn’t tell me this earlier,’ Alvarez growled.
‘No, well, I wasn’t sure. It could just have been a sigh.’
‘What was it she might have said.’
‘I thought it sounded like “Car”.’
‘Car?’
‘When I discovered that her boyfriend, er, her ex-boyfriend, was called Carl, I thought it must have been him.’
‘You suspected that Seňor Carl killed Seňorita Raquel?’
‘Yes, but it couldn’t have been him as he was seen at the dance club.’
Alvarez nodded. ‘That is true. However, I don’t think you have finished the account of your investigation, Detective Frame.’ The sarcasm oozed from the policeman’s statement.  Jasmine felt embarrassed. Yes, of course she should have passed on what she had heard, or thought she heard.
‘I didn’t think any more of it until I learnt that one of Raquel’s girlfriends was called Caroline or Carrie.’
‘So you suspected her.’
‘Yes.’
‘When you crawled across the balcony, at considerable risk to your own safety, were your suspicions strengthened.’
‘No. I was surprised. It was Gemma abusing Carrie, not the other way around.’
‘Abusing?’
‘Gemma had Carrie on her knees and was pulling her hair. She was making her promise not say anything about Raquel.’
Alvarez nodded, ‘You intervened?’
Jasmine rattled out what had happened. ‘I pulled Gemma off Carrie. She fought like a hellcat but Carrie helped me. I thought we had Gemma calm after that but she broke free, lashed out at me and then leapt over the balcony.’  The words came to a shuddering halt as she surveyed the result of her intervention; the sprawled, lifeless body of the young woman on the grass.
‘Do you know the reason for these two deaths?’ Alvarez persisted.
‘It was my fault.’ It was Carrie’s sob-choked voice that answered.
Inspector Alvarez looked at her with sad eyes. ‘Ah, Seňorita. What do you have to tell us?’
Carrie stepped forward with Angela’s arms around her.  She glanced at the body then looked away but couldn’t raise her eyes to the policeman or Jasmine.
‘Raquel and I were lovers,’ she whispered.
Alvarez shrugged. ‘That may have displeased Seňor Carl, but why Seňorita Gemma?’
‘Because Gemma and I were also lovers.’
‘Ah, a love triangle of three young women,’ Alvarez said.
‘A love square with Carl as well,’ Jasmine added. Alvarez looked at her and shook his head.
‘I don’t think Seňor Carl had much say in what happened, eh, Seňorita?’
Carrie shook her head.
The Inspector took a deep breath. ‘I need to hear your story Seňorita but not here and not in front of this crowd.’
Jasmine looked around and was surprised to see how big the band of gawkers had got. Now though, uniformed police had arrived and Alvarez gave instructions for them to clear the onlookers and let the body be dealt with. He returned to take Carrie’s arm and started to lead her away. Over his shoulder, he addressed Jasmine.
‘I will be back to speak to you again in the morning. Whether you are Seňorita or Seňor Frame is up to you.’
It was another hot day with a cloudless blue sky, but James was in no hurry to leave the bedroom. He felt that hotel staff and guests would be looking at him, not so much because of his appearance as Jasmine the previous evening, but because of his involvement in the two deaths. Angela had gone down to the dining room and returned with breakfast croissants and fruit. Now they awaited the promised visit by Inspector Alvarez. They sat in the shade on their balcony.
There was a light tap on their door. Angela got up to open it and returned with the police officer. James noted that he wore the same suit and wondered whether the Inspector had managed to get out of it at all since their meeting in the night.  Angela offered him her seat on the balcony. Alvarez sat down and appeared to be grateful to have the rest. Angela went back into the bedroom.
‘Well, Seňor,’ Alvarez began, his voice betraying his fatigue, ‘we appear to have solved the two deaths. A murder and a suicide.’
James nodded. ‘That’s what I thought. But why?’
Alvarez shrugged. ‘I love women but I do not understand them, particularly young seňoritas and especially those who, ah, only love other seňoritas.’
‘Lesbian jealousy,’ Angela said, returning with a glass of iced water for the policeman. He took it, with a nod of gratitude and took a sip.
‘That is it,’ Alvarez said after a moment. ‘Seňoritas Raquel, Gemma and Carrie, were all lovers of each other with Gemma the dominant Seňora. When Carl appeared, Gemma’s control over Raquel was broken. Raquel was briefly in love with him but missed the tender caresses of Carrie. She, how do you say, “dumped” the boy and drew the girl into her arms, away from the manipulations of Gemma.’  He paused to take another cool drink before continuing. ‘The night before last, Raquel and Carrie returned early from the dancing. A short while later, after, I think, you had yourselves returned, Gemma came knocking. Raquel let her in. Gemma ordered Carrie to leave and then launched an assault on Raquel which ended with her fall from the balcony. She thought it would look like suicide but Raquel’s struggles to hold on damaged her fingertips and she also had Gemma’s skin under her finger nails.’
‘So you knew that Gemma was the killer,’ James said.
‘That information wasn’t given to me by our forensic officers until this morning.’
‘Too late,’ James said, shaking his head.
‘It may not have been too late if Seňorita Gemma’s bullying of Seňorita Carrie had not been exposed.’
James heard Alvarez’s words. Gradually understanding came.
‘You mean, if I hadn’t burst in on Gemma threatening Carrie, she wouldn’t have leapt off the balcony and you could have arrested her this morning.’
Alvarez nodded slowly, ‘Of course I may be wrong. Seňorita Carrie may have resisted Seňorita Gemma’s demands and violence may still have occurred, but. . .’ He shrugged.
James felt cold. His mouth sagged open. He was responsible for Gemma’s death.
Alvarez leaned towards him and placed a hand on his shoulder.
‘Do not be troubled, Police Officer Frame. The seňorita was unstable. She had, after all, killed Seňorita Raquel, who she had loved, or at least loved to dominate. As a detective, one learns that investigations can have unforeseen consequences.’
James stared at Alvarez. ‘But . . .’ he began but ran out of words. Alvarez held a finger to his lips.
‘No, Seňor. When you are a detective you will understand. Perhaps you will also learn that holidays with your delightful wife are not for investigating but for having fun, as Seňorita Jasmine perhaps.’
The End

 

 

 

 

 

Jasmine hears an alibi

Brrr…it’s a bit cold. Well, it is here in the UK although I don’t suppose -5C (night-time) counts as cold in some places.  One good result is that it has been clear and sunny during the days which has been wonderful (our solar panels have been generating a bit more than usual for this time of year). It was especially lovely when we visited Tenby in Pembrokeshire last week as you can see in the photos.

I wanted to be cheerful about something as otherwise I might come over as being depressed. The news from the US doesn’t get any better.  I still can’t say it – President Trrrrr, – I feel a bit like Kryten from Red Dwarf trying to lie.  The situation elsewhere isn’t, much better.  Perhaps a bright spot is Botswana.

We have been to see the film “A United Kingdom” about the marriage of Seretse Kama to Ruth Williams and his struggle to be recognised as King of Bechuanaland.  I won’t go into the full story but the lying and duplicity of the British governments, Labour and Conservative with their toadying to South Africa’s apartheid policy  in the late 1940s and 1950s was only balanced by the love and determination of the married couple. That they won and Seretse went on to become the first President of independent Botswana was wonderful. I may be wrong but it seems that Botswana is one of the few countries which having gained independence hasn’t later descended into corruption and factionalism. I wonder if it was because Bechuanaland was previously an independent kingdom and its borders weren’t dreamed up by western politicians.

wp_20161130_09_48_52_pro

A selfie in the mirror.

Changing tack – the third Jasmine Frame novel is now heading for publication but here is the fifth episode of Falloff, the Jasmine Frame prequel.

Falloff – Part 5

‘Are you going to tell Alvarez?’ Angela said.
James frowned. ‘I’ve got no evidence that Carl killed Raquel,’ he said.
‘Except the girl’s final breath.’
James wondered why Angela was being sarcastic about Raquel’s dying word. He had a hunch.
‘Exactly. I’m sure she was trying to tell me something before she died and it looks like she was trying to say his name, but I can’t put Carl in the room when she fell.’
‘So forget it,’ Angela said, pulling off her t-shirt and shorts to reveal her bikini. ‘We’re on holiday, remember? I know Raquel’s death was a shock but it’s none of our business. Let’s do what we came here for, well some of it.’
‘What?’
‘Relax. There’s a pool down there in the sun and if we’re lucky there may be a couple of sunbeds beside it, still free.’  She grabbed her beach towel.
James stripped down to a pair of swimming shorts and picking up his own towel followed Angela from the room.
There were in fact just two unoccupied loungers left, side by side on the grass beside the pool.  James sat down and looked around at the young people enjoying themselves, soaking up the rays and splashing about in the pool. It wasn’t the same carefree atmosphere of the previous day. A few small groups were in conversation. James guessed that the night’s incident was still the burning topic of discussion.
Angela lay down beside him and closed her eyes. He looked at her body, naked but for the small triangles of cloth that barely covered her breasts and pubis. He adored her curves and her smooth skin. As he looked around he saw other young women similarly attired and felt a twist in his gut. It wasn’t lust but envy. He wished he had bodies like them. He wished he too was wearing a bikini with an hour-glass figure. As Jasmine, he had never dared to wear a one-piece swimsuit, let alone a bikini, as he was fully aware that his masculine figure was a giveaway, even without considering the bulge in his pants. Nevertheless, the desire to be like the bikini-clad young women was almost overpowering, along with the feeling of guilt. Angela was so accepting of Jasmine, apparently enjoying their nights on the dance floor as two girls but was unaware of the deeper urge that he felt. That was because he kept on denying it, asserting that Jasmine was another side of his personality, to the entirety of it.
James sighed, lay back and closed his eyes. He wanted to empty his mind and just soak up the sun (not for long, with his pale skin he would burn soon). He couldn’t do it; two sets of thoughts kept competing for his attention. The first was his gender identity, an ever-present dilemma; the second was the identity of Raquel’s killer. Who could have pushed her off the balcony even as she scrabbled to hold on? Carl? He seemed to fit the mould, but now James began to feel doubts. While he seemed unhappy about being questioned by the Inspector, again, his emotional response to Raquel’s death seemed to be one of confusion rather than guilt. Had Raquel really dumped him just a day into their holiday?
Her heard the familiar sound of regular breathing of someone asleep next to him. He opened his eyes and looked at Angela. Yes, she was asleep. He mustn’t drop off too and let her burn.  A young man and woman were walking along the side of the pool towards him. He pushed himself up on his elbows and examined them. They were two of Raquel’s companions.  They noticed him watching them, returned the gaze and then spoke to each other. They approached him.
The boy spoke. ‘You’re the guy who discovered Raquel aren’t you? In the room next door?’
James shielded his eyes from the sun. ‘Yes. You were with her weren’t you. We saw you all together at the airport.’
‘That’s right,’ the girl answered, ‘I think we saw you there too.’
James hauled himself upright from the lounger. ‘I’m James. My wife is Angela,’ He nodded to her sleeping form
‘I’m Andy and this is Jess.’  They shook hands.
‘I’m sorry about Raquel,’ James said.
A cloud came over the boy’s and girl’s face.
‘It’s awful,’ Jess said, ‘and it must have been dreadful for you, finding her.’
James nodded. ‘Hmm, yes. I guess you’re all upset, especially Carl?’
‘Carl? You know him?’ Andy’s query wasn’t one of surprise that James should know his name him but more a guarded, “why mention him” sort of question
‘We met him outside our room. We saw him and Raquel together at the airport.’
Jess glanced at Andy then spoke. ‘They were together then but not last night.’
‘Oh, what happened?’ James was eager to know but tried to make his question sound innocent.
Jess answered, ‘They had a huge bust-up yesterday morning after our first night clubbing. Raquel chucked him out of their room.’
‘What did they argue about?’
‘Oh, something stupid,’ Andy said with an attempt at a laugh, ‘Carl was looking at another girl. Raquel’s a bit edgy. Oh god, I didn’t mean that.’
Jess stroked his arm. ‘It’s alright, Andy. I keep forgetting she’s gone too. You’re right, she could go off on one.’
‘So, they weren’t together at El Danza last night?’ James asked, pushing for more evidence.
‘No. We all went there together although Carl and Raquel weren’t speaking to each other. I didn’t see Raquel again but Carl got hitched up with some other girl and was still there when we came back at three.’
‘You saw him?’
‘Yes.’
‘What about earlier, around two?’
Andy frowned. ‘Two o’clock. Was that when Raquel, er, fell.’
James shrugged as if he was not that interested. ‘Something like that.’
Jess nodded. ‘Yes, I saw him. It must have been about then. He had a hand inside the girl’s knickers.’
‘You’re very interested in it all,’ Andy said.
James tried to appear nonchalant but concerned; a difficult combination. ‘Yes, I suppose I am. It was a bit of shock to find her, you know. . .’
‘Of course,’ Jess said, ‘Come on Andy, let’s get out of this place. I can’t stop thinking of what happened while we’re here.’ She tugged on his arm.
‘Yes, okay.’ The boy allowed himself to be dragged away, ‘Thanks mate,’ he called back over his shoulder.
James turned back to his lounger and saw that Angela was awake.
‘What was all that about?’ she said.
‘Raquel’s friends giving Carl an alibi.’
‘Oh, how?’
‘Apparently, he was making out with another girl at the club while Raquel was falling from the balcony.’
‘So there goes one of your theories.’
James’ shoulders dropped, ‘I suppose so, but I still think she meant to say something.’
Angela stood up. ‘Well, instead of theorising I want to cool off. Let’s swim.’ She ran and jumped into the pool.

Jasmine warned

Are you offended?  Do you think you have the right not to be offended?  A few things have come my way this week which caused me to think about taking offence.  First of all an article by Eddie Mair in the Radio Times referred to those warnings you get before TV and radio programmes about language or nudity. In particular he was troubled by the warning before a talk show of “opinions which some viewers may find offensive”.  Mair questioned what these opinions might be and why he needed to be warned. Why did someone have to pre-guess what opinions listeners may be offended by?

Today I saw a clip on Facebook of an interview on American TV with one of Trump’s team. He didn’t care whether anyone was offended by anything that Trump or his supporters said.  He thought that for too long people who took offence have been pandered to and that in the Trump future people who had these feelings didn’t matter. This seemed to give a free-rein to racism, homophobia, etc.

Finally I saw a report of a BBC radio programme with Nick Grimshaw and David Walliams during which they played a game of trying to guess the gender of callers from their voice. Not surprisingly, trans people were offended that people’s gender should be questioned and ridiculed for the sake of a few minutes of entertainment. It might encourage people to point (and do worse) to people who didn’t fit their stereotypical view of male and female.

Penny ears

I hear no hate

I have often told people that I can’t be offended if they ask me questions about what it means to be trans. I don’t want people to be put off by the thought that I might be hurt because they don’t understand. I hope that by asking the questions they can learn, even if they use words or express opinions that I don’t agree with.

A lot is made of our right to freedom of speech (and freedom of the press). I have disagreed with attempts to deny certain people (for example radical feminists who deny that MtF transsexuals are women) a platform to express their ideas. So long as there is a debate and that both (or more) sides have a chance to give their opinions, backed up by explanation, then I am happy. What does annoy me, I might even say offends me,  is the wild sloganising that characterised the American election and the Brexit referendum; slogans with no basis in fact and often downright lies accepted as truth. I am worried that people in power in the USA, UK and elsewhere are feeling confident enough to spout baseless, hurtful opinions that can only be socially divisive.

I believe we have the right to give opinions. We do not have the right denigrate someone for their race, religion, abilities, sexuality, gender, gender identity, age or any other personal attribute. I believe we have the responsibility to back up our opinions with reason and fact. I believe we have the duty, not to feel offence, but to refute any opinions which we disagree with or which we think are harmful. If we do feel hurt and offended what people say it is not sufficient to simply complain about it, instead the offensive opinions must be opposed and answered.

There, that’s todays rant over. I hope you weren’t offended.

And now to part three of Falloff, the Jasmine Frame prequel. It’s July 2005,  Jasmine and Angela are on honeymoon, enjoying sun, sea, sand and dancing, but a death disturbs the peace.

Falloff: Part 3

James looked up into Angela’s face lit by the pale night-time light diffusing through the curtains. Her expression showed horror.
‘Murder?’ she said.
James pulled her down against him, wanting to hold her tight and feel secure.
‘Her nails must have got shattered fighting an attacker, and scrabbling to hold on to the balcony.’
‘That’s awful. Someone deliberately made her lose her grip and let her fall?’
‘It fits.’
‘But who? One of her group?’
‘They were in and out of each other’s rooms.’
Angela shook her head as far as she could while held in James’ arms. ‘But they seemed to be having a good time. They were all friends. Weren’t they?’
‘I wasn’t watching them closely enough to know, but they seemed okay with each other.’ He paused. ‘Mind you she was all over that big guy at the airport but I don’t remember seeing her actually with him yesterday.’
They were silent for a few minutes but James knew that Angela hadn’t fallen asleep.
‘What are you going to do?’ she said eventually.
‘What can I do? I’m just a visitor here on holiday as far as the Spanish police are concerned.’
‘But you could tell that detective, Alvarez, about her fingers.’
‘I’m sure he’ll have noticed them himself.’
They were quiet again until James had another thought.  ‘There was another thing though.’
‘What?’
‘She wasn’t dead when I got to her. She was still breathing and said something. Well, she made a sound.’
‘What kind of sound?’
‘Well, it may have been just a groan. It was very soft but it sounded like a name, or part of one.’
‘What name?’
‘Car.’
‘That’s something else for you to tell the detective.’
‘Hmm, yes, if he comes to question us again.’
They fell silent and while thoughts continued to pass through James’ mind, he drifted into sleep.
There were more people in the dining room for breakfast than there had been the previous day. For the late and all-night revellers, it was an unaccustomed gathering. Looking around the pale, tired faces and the quiet talk, James guessed that the news of the death had circulated and the young people wanted to discuss it, to make some kind of sense of the tragedy.   A few people who they had nodded to or spoken a few words to previously approached them and asked if they knew about the girl who had fallen. James and Angela nodded but he didn’t reveal his part in the discovery of the body or his suspicions.
The whispered speculations made James feel uncomfortable so after hurriedly eating a croissant and drinking a coffee they made a speedy return to their room.  As James bent to put the key in their lock a familiar voice spoke from behind him.
‘Ah, Seňor and Seňora Frame.’ It was Inspector Alvarez, the detective.
James straightened up and turned. The policeman’s eyes were heavy and his face a little more grizzled than it had been in the night, but he still seemed alert.
‘You have had breakfast perhaps?’ he continued.  James and Angela nodded. ‘And you slept well?’
‘No, not really,’ James admitted.
Alvarez nodded slowly, ‘Well, that is not a surprise. No doubt you were thinking about the girl. Your neighbour.’
‘Yes,’ James said wondering when the policeman was going to get to the point.
‘I am sorry your holiday has been affected by this incident.  May I see in your room please?’
‘Of course,’ James replied. He pushed the door open and invited the detective to step inside. He and Angela followed.
James watched as Alvarez scanned the room. He eyes paused on the unmade bed.  I bet he’s wondering if we had sex after returning to bed last night, James thought. His eyes moved on to the two dresses and sets of female underwear still lying scattered on the floor. Then Alvarez went to the window, pushed the curtain to the side and stepped through the open door onto the balcony.
‘You had the door open when you were in bed last night?’ he asked.
‘Yes,’ Angela replied. ‘The room was still hot when we got back but there was a nice breeze blowing.’
‘There’s no air conditioning in the room,’ James explained.
‘Ah, Hotel Arena is not expensive,’ Alvarez said.
‘That’s right,’ James agreed wondering what the point was.
‘So affordable for young people with not a lot of money, Right?’
James shrugged, ‘Yes, that’s why we booked it.’
Alvarez turned and stepped to the rail around the balcony. He looked to the left from where the girl had fallen and then leant over to look at the ground. He turned around and returned to the bedroom.
‘You said you heard a cry and then a thud.’
‘I did,’ Angela said.
‘I didn’t notice it. Angela told me,’ James added.
‘Because your concentration was on other things,’ Alvarez said without a smile.
‘I suppose so,’ James said not wanting to go into details. Was the guy being voyeuristic?
‘But you didn’t hear anything else from the room next door?’
‘I don’t know,’ Angela said, ‘Nothing that caught my attention.’
‘There were all sorts of noises. Like now,’ James said. They all froze listening to the sounds that surrounded them. There was traffic noise from the road along the seafront, and from people around the pool. There were sounds of conversations, of taps running, of loos being flushed, of beds creaking from rooms above and below and to the right of their room.
‘Even in the middle of the night?’ Alvarez said.
‘Yes. You know that lots of the people were coming back from the clubs at all hours, partying in their rooms, and the traffic never stops.’
Alvarez nodded. ‘The walls are thin.’
James recalled the noises from their first night, the rhythmic thumping of a mattress above them as a couple had vigorous intercourse.
‘It’s a cheap hotel,’ James repeated.
Alvarez cocked his head to one side and looked at Angela. ‘So why did you notice the cry the girl made as she fell and the thud as she hit the ground?’
Angela’s mouth dropped open. ‘Um, I don’t know. I suppose they were different types of sound.’
The detective nodded, ‘The cry that escaped the girl’s lips as she lost her balance and the impact of her landing would have a different quality to the more familiar sounds.’
‘That’s the reason,’ James said a little more forcefully than he intended. He couldn’t decide whether Alvarez was doubting them.  The policeman gave him a thin smile.
‘Let us see if you can remember more. Sit down please, Seňor, Seňora.’  James and Angela sat side by side on the edge of the bed. Alvarez eased himself into one of the two small armchairs by the window.
‘Now, you arrived back in the room before most of the other guests.’
‘Yes.’ James agreed, ‘We were still a bit tired and not up for really late night dancing.’
‘Ah, you like the dancing to the music the clubs play.’
‘It’s one of the things we like doing together,’ Angela said. James caught her eyeing the crumpled dresses they had each worn.
‘So you came back and got into bed?’  James and Angela nodded. ‘But you didn’t fall asleep?’
James answered. ‘No. We weren’t quite that exhausted and it is our honeymoon.’
‘Of course,’ Alvarez kept a straight face, ‘Now remember. You are in bed, your minds may have been on other things, but think about the noises.  Did you hear a door open?’
James’ mind was a blank. He recalled sliding under the thin sheet and beginning to explore the familiar contours of Angela’s body. That totally absorbed him.
‘Yes, I may have done,’ Angela said.
‘The girl’s room, on that side?’ Alvarez pointed to their left.
Angela nodded slowly, ‘I think so.’
‘Once, twice, more times?’
‘What?’ Angela said.
‘The door. Did you hear it open and close more than once?’
Angela sat rigid, her eyes closed. James watched her as her brow crinkled.  ‘I think so. Yes, a while after the first time.’
‘And was there conversation?’
Angela shook her head slowly, ‘I don’t know, there may have been. There were voices from various places, I couldn’t tell.’
Alvarez let out the smallest of sighs. He stood up. ‘Thank you Seňora Frame.’ He started to move towards the door.
‘Wait!’ James said. The policeman paused, looked at him and frowned.
‘Yes, Seňor?’
‘What do you think happened to the girl? What was her name?’
‘Her name is Raquel Thomas,’ The detective replied immediately, ‘And I think she fell to her death.’
‘But how? Was it an accident, suicide or, um, murder?’
The detective glared at James, unblinking. ‘That is my job to find out, Seňor Frame.’
‘Which do you think it was?’
‘I am sorry. I do not discuss my thoughts. Do you have an opinion?’
James opened his mouth, paused. Should he say what he had observed? He took a breath, swallowed. ‘I think she was murdered.’
The policeman’s expression did not change. ‘Do you have evidence for that conclusion, Seňor Frame.’
‘Her fingernails were broken and her fingertips were bloody.’
Alvarez smiled. ‘Ah, you noticed that. You are a detective Seňor Frame?’
‘I’m a police constable, at home in England.’
The detective took a deep breath and frowned. ‘Well, PC Frame, thank you for your opinion and observation but please remember that you are on vacation here. The death of Seňorita Thomas is my case and I do not allow interference.’
James shook his head violently. ‘No, of course not.’
‘Enjoy your honeymoon Seňor, Seňora. Do what honeymooners do.’ Alvarez turned, pulled the door open and departed.
……to be continued.